Probiotics are everywhere in the media today – news stories, magazine articles, radio stories and the topic of many news shows, let alone commercials. But what exactly are they and why all the hype? Are they just a passing trend or an essential supplement? Hopefully not a passing trend, as they provide many benefits for our health.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in our bodies, namely our digestive tract, and serve as a catalyst to expedite digestion and enhance nutritional uptake. They can be found in fermented and cultured foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kimchee. They are also sold in supplement form ranging from liquid, pills, capsules and powders.
Because probiotics aid in digestion and help your body absorb essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, they can help to boost your immune system and increase health. Increasingly, research is showing that probiotic supplements positively affect digestion and can aid in reducing a number of issues such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome and other GI tract troubles. As science continues to study the positive effects for probiotics on adults, it is also starting to investigate potential benefits for infants and small children.
Not surprisingly, there is building research that shows probiotics have beneficial properties for infants and toddlers. Although not deemed a wonder cure, baby and toddler foods enhanced with probiotic supplements are considered safe and natural to feed children. Parents use these foods to help their children’s’ immune systems, possibly prevent allergies and asthma and prevent colic. Many doctors report that they recommend using probiotic drops to help soothe and possibly stop colic. Other doctors recommend increased probiotic intake for pregnant and nursing women, to increase the level of healthy bacteria found naturally in breast milk.
There are many studies on the effectiveness of probiotics and the impact on health. Although there are some with inconclusive findings, most professionals in the fields of medicine and science state they feel comfortable with patients using probiotic supplements, as they are natural and have little evidence of negative side effects. Typically the most common negative report when people begin to use these supplements is a temporary increase in stomach distress and gas as the body adjusts to the increase in healthy bacteria levels.
The benefits to probiotics have not yet been 100% proven, but the fact is, they aren’t a fad or fiction, but definitely a fabulous addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle. They are also a wonderful balm for an upset stomach, young or old. As with any change to your diet or starting a new supplement, always consult your medical professional. Pregnant and nursing women especially should get approval from their doctors before beginning a regime of probiotic supplements. Also, talk with your pediatrician before introducing them to your child’s diet as well.
Start your probiotic routine with small doses and slowly increase to the suggested daily allowance. This will prevent any stomach distress and help your body adjust. After a few weeks however you’ll begin to see the positive effects and will most certainly deem it a fabulous supplement to your healthy daily routine!